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Libraries | Michael Cavna talks to Drama creator Raina Telgemeier and Charles Brownstein of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund about graphic novel challenges in libraries and why Drama made the American Library Association’s 2014 list of 10 most challenged books. [The Washington Post]
Political cartoons | The East African cartoonist Gado has been let go from the Kenyan newspaper The Nation, apparently due to pressure from the government. The move came after the newspaper’s owner met with President Uhuru Kenyatta, who’s been pushing the publication to drop some its contributors critical of his government. Gado’s cartoons about various scandals, and his depictions of the president as a prisoner with a ball and chain and as a turbaned Sikh (following an attempted land grab that involved four entrepreneurs named Singh) have clearly hit a nerve. [Spy Ghana] Continue Reading »
Libraries | A parent plans to appeal a decision by a New Mexico school district to keep Gilbert Hernandez’s Palomar on the shelves of the Rio Rancho High School Library. Catrenna Lopez complained in February after her 14-year-old son brought home the acclaimed hardcover, insisting it contained “pornographic” images and promoted prostitution. A review committee appointed by the superintendent of Rio Rancho Public Schools voted 5-3 last week to retain the book. In response to the decision, Lopez said, “To me, this book is kind of like having a Hustler magazine in the schools.” If she follows through with her plan, the appeal would go to the school board, which would take a public vote on its decision. [KRQE]
Auctions | A page of original artwork from 1971’s Asterix and the Laurel Wreath sold at auction Sunday for more than $158,000, with proceeds going to benefit the families of those killed in the attack on Charlie Hebdo‘s offices. The art included a special dedication by Asterix co-creator Albert Uderzo, who came out of retirement in the days after the attack to draw tributes to the victims. The auction house Christie’s waived its commission for Sunday’s sale. [BBC News]
Political cartoons | Ecuadorean cartoonist Xavier Bonilla, who has been sued, threatened and reprimanded by his own government because of his political cartoons, revealed last week that he has also received threats from an Ecuadorean member of ISIS over a cartoon making fun of the extremist group. While he ultimately decided the threat wasn’t credible, Bonilla said, “It has to be understood within this climate of hostility and harassment that’s been created within the country. It’s gotten to the point where even humor is being persecuted and oppressed by the president.” Reporter Jim Wyss also looks at some other cases of government suppression of political cartoons in Latin America [Miami Herald]
Libraries | The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has responded to the recent removal of a copy of Gilbert Herandez’s Palomar from a high school library in New Mexico following complaints from a parent, who called the acclaimed graphic novel “pornographic.” Taking a local television station to task for its “biased reporting,” the organization notes the removal of the book by Rio Rancho Public Schools officials appears to violate the district’s own challenge policy. [Comic Book Legal Defense Fund]
Manga | Here’s an interesting insight into the Japanese publishing industry: Deb Aoki, in Tokyo as a judge for the Manga Translation Battle, collects a series of her tweets and the responses of others (including a number of pros) to the symposium that followed the awards reception. The juxtaposition of two charts is startling: Manga sales are sharply down in Japan but rising in the United States, although of course the orders of magnitude are different. In keeping with the theme, she also discusses what makes a “good” translation, with actual manga translators weighing in with their opinions. [Storify]
Censorship | The Tanzanian government has banned a regional newspaper, The EastAfrican, apparently because of a cartoon by Godfrey Mwampembwa (GADO) that was critical of President Jakaya Kikwete. [The Washington Post]
Creators | “My idea is that if you want to defend Islam against cartoons, you do it by drawing cartoons, not by killing the cartoonists,” says Palestinian cartoonist Mohammed Sabaaneh, who is back on the job after being suspended for a cartoon that some interpreted as being a likeness of the Prophet Muhammad (Sabaaneh insists it was not). This profile of Sabaaneh includes an interview with the creator and a nuanced look at the milieu in which he works. [The Independent]
Censorship | Police confiscated 200 copies of Malaysian cartoonist Zunar’s latest book, which lampoons the prime minister’s wife, as they were being transported to a book launch party on Saturday. Zunar, who was charged last week with sedition and held for three days because of a comment he made on Twitter, said every time he’s arrested, police raid his printer. Nonetheless, he encouraged the attendees at the launch party to order his books online, and said that ultimately, attempts to suppress him will backfire on the Malaysian government. [The Malaysian Insider]
Crime | Police in San Antonio, Texas, arrested two men on Friday on charges of stealing $5,000 worth of comics from a local collector. After the robbery, the collector contacted local comic shops and asked them to keep an eye out for the stolen goods. Several retailers gave police information, including a license plate number, that led to the arrests of Gino Saenz and Jose Gonzalez on charges of theft. [San Antonio Express-News]
Digital comics | Humble Bundle sold $3 million worth of DRM-free digital comics in 2014, the first year in which the company included e-books and comics in its bundles. Total e-book revenues were $4.75 million, of which $1.2 million went to charity (including the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund). That may sound like a lot of money, but as director of e-books Kelley Allen said, “The numbers generated by the book bundles look like a rounding error in comparison to video games,” because the audience for the latter is so vast. Humble Bundle’s e-books are DRM-free, which has been a stumbling block for traditional book publishers, but comics publishers are more flexible, Allen said. [Publishers Weekly]
The Ball-Chatham School Board in Chatham, Illinois, voted unanimously this week to keep Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis on a reading list for seniors at Glenwood High School.
Mike Housewirth, the father of a student, had asked that the graphic novel be removed from the list, questioning the teacher’s judgment in assigning a book about Muslims on Sept. 11. He also objected to the book’s depictions of torture (particularly one in which a guard urinates on a prisoner) and dismembered bodies.
“If my son had drawn a picture like that at school, he would have been expelled,” Housewirth said, adding that while he felt his son was mature enough to read the book, the overall tone was “appalling.”
“Reading controversial material does not hurt students or corrupt them,” countered Glenwood High School Principal Jim Lee. Students don’t simply read a book and accept it at face value, he added; they use it as a springboard for discussion and reach their own conclusions.
As Banned Books Week winds down, the American Library Association has released a video of Stan Lee addressing literacy and attempts to ban comic books.
“There have been times when people tried to ban comics, they felt that they stifled a child’s imagination because, why should a child see pictures of what he or she is reading about,” he says. “But my answer to that always was the same: Why would anybody go to see a Shakespeare play, because you’re seeing the characters on the stage? Maybe there should be no plays; maybe we should just have to read the script. Maybe there should be no movies, there should be no television shows, there should be no radio shows — just read the script. Obviously, that’s ridiculous. Reading is the basis for all these other things.”
Branding the popular anime as borderline “pornography,” Indonesia’s television regulator has warned a broadcaster to censor “indecent” images on Crayon Shin-chan or air the series at a later time, when it’s unlikely to be seen by children.
Based on the manga by the late Yoshito Usui, Crayon Shin-chan follows a the adventures of a mischievous 5-year-old who’s prone to inappropriate behavior — he frequently moons other characters — and off-color language. Scantily clad women and risque humor are staples of the series; there’s also the matter of his infamous “Mr. Elephant” dance.
That’s too much for the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (KPI), a government-sanctioned but independent regulatory body, which on Monday issued the warning to the Jakarta-based RCTI television network.
Banned Books Week | Michael Cavna talks with Jeff Smith, Scott McCloud and Neil Gaiman about the importance of Banned Books Week. Says Gaiman, “I get tired of when people say that no books are banned just because [you can get it elsewhere]. Say you’re a kid in a school district [that banned a book] and there’s not a local Barnes & Noble and you don’t have 20 or 50 bucks in disposable income … That book is gone. It was there and now it’s not. The fact you can buy it on Amazon doesn’t make that any less bad.” [Comic Riffs]
Banned Books Week | Charles Brownstein, executive director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, discusses comics and censorship in a video interview. [Reason Magazine]
Just in time for Banned Books Week, the Cleveland, Texas, city council declined to act on a local pastor’s request that the public library remove all occult-themed books, including the wildly popular Vampire Knight manga series, from its young-adult room.
As we previously reported, Rev. Phillip Missick of the King of Saints Tabernacle Church addressed the city council on Aug. 12, demanding the “occultic and demonic room be shut down, and these books be purged from the shelves, and that public funds would no longer be used to purchase such material, or at least require parents to check them out for their children.”
He also complained about the decor of the Young Adult room, which includes a Sorting Hat and a figure of Dobby the Elf, both from Harry Potter, and a bouquet of dried roses. (We’ll get back to the roses.) Missick filed a formal Statement of Concern with the library, asking for the removal of five specific books, and he wrote a letter requesting a general ban on anything with an occult theme, saying, “As ministers of Christ, it is our responsibility to ‘watch’ and ‘warn’ against Satanic assaults against the hearts and minds of our children.”
Banned Books Week | National Public Radio’s Lynn Neary covers Banned Books Week, with interviews with frequently banned creators Jeff Smith (Bone) and Dav Pilkey (Captain Underpants). Although Smith acknowledges he was initially shocked to see his acclaimed fantasy adventure among the 10 most challenged books of 2013, he soon came to terms with the distinction. “I mean my heroes are on this list,” he says. “People like Mark Twain and Steinbeck and Melville and Vonnegut, so part of me also kind of says, ‘OK, fine I can be on this list.'” [NPR]
Banned Books Week | Michael Dooley runs a brief excerpt from Fun Home, and Keith Knight does a show-and-tell of his comics that were too controversial for some newspapers. [Print Magazine]
This is Banned Books Week, the annual celebration of all the books that someone, somewhere, thought was objectionable — which usually means they make good reading. This year, the focus is on comics and graphic novels, and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is working with the other sponsors, including the American Library Association, to produce a number of resources for librarians and others, including a Banned Books Week Handbook; the organization has also posted a handy list of Banned Book Week events across the country (including this panel discussion, which I’ll be part of).
Graphic novels | Sales of graphic novels are up 10 percent so far this year compared to the same period in 2013, according to Neilsen BookScan, which tracks sales in bookstores and other general retail channels. In terms of unit sales, that’s about 5.6 million books sold this year, as opposed to 5.1 million in 2013. The trend is echoed by Diamond Comic Distributors’ numbers for the direct market, which show graphic novels up 3.8 percent in dollars and 5.8 percent in unit sales year to date. [Publishers Weekly]
Creators | Alison Bechdel is having a busy week: Following the news that she has been awarded a prestigious MacArthur Foundation fellowship, she announced her new book: The Secret to Superhuman Strength, a memoir of her obsession with exercise and a history of American fitness fads, to be published in 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. [The New York Times]